REVIEW: “Pet Sematary” (2019)

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It has been 30 years since the original movie adaptation of Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary”. It was a peculiar slice of genre entertainment that was essentially a twisted horror fable on death and loss. And even with King writing the screenplay himself, it never quite overcame the goofiness of its concept to be a truly effective horror film. The same could be said for 2019’s version

The duo of Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer direct from a screenplay by Jeff Buhler. Their film follows the same basic blueprint but with a handful of noticeable changes, none of which makes this a particularly better picture.

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Jason Clarke plays Louis Reed, a Doctor from Boston who moves his wife, two children, and the family cat (yes, it’s important that I mention the cat) to the idyllic small town of Ludlow, Maine. His hope is to exchange the hustle and bustle of the big city for quiet rural living. It probably goes without saying, but things don’t exactly go as planned.

It starts when his daughter Ellie (Jeté Laurence) stumbles upon an old pet cemetery in the woods near their house. She bumps into their creepy neighbor Jud (John Lithgow) who warns her that the woods are a dangerous place (as they always are in movies like this). When the aforementioned family cat is killed on the highway Louis sets out to bury it at the cemetery. But Jud recommends a patch of ground deeper into the woods – one apparently built on a studio set yanked straight out of the Dark Shadows television series.

Louis takes Jud’s advice but is stunned the next morning when he discovers the formerly dead cat is (gasp!) alive. He has no believable explanation for his skeptical wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz), I mean who would? But things get really hairy when they realize that their kitty isn’t the same cute, cuddly feline he once was. In fact, he has a bonafide mean streak.

That sets the groundwork for the film’s more macabre turn after the family is hit with a far more devastating tragedy. A bad idea gives birth to even worse decisions and the consequences are tremendous. Similar to the 1989 film, there is something to this story that has potential to be both creepy and provocative. But the movie can’t quite nail it down. It’s never able to sell us enough on its premise.

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“Pet Sematary” leans on too many genre tropes instead of doing what could have been a lot better – blending in more psychological horror. Also the script has several issues ranging from illogical character actions to underserved side stories. Take Rachel’s lingering mental trauma following a childhood family tragedy of her own. A decent amount of time is put into it yet the story thread never feels particularly relevant. It feels tacked on rather than thoughtfully incorporated into the film.

It’s a shame because there are a handful of decent sequences as well as some clever work with the camera that helps build some much needed tension. And it’s not a movie you have labor through. But it is one that will leave you constantly questioning its logic and always aware of its unfulfilled potential.

VERDICT – 2 STARS

2-stars

29 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Pet Sematary” (2019)

    • Oh that’s awesome! I’m try to have a family movie night at our house but we’ve missed several weeks lately. Love that you guys are doing that. Keep it up!

      But as for the movie, you’re right. It’s pretty disappointing. I remember thinking the trailer looked really interesting. Unfortunately….

  1. Although the first movie I thought was over all decent and quite effective , this one felt like a standard horror genre entry . Where it could have gone with a more cerebral view and examine the depth of loss and grief and how that can effect a person , they didn’t . The book was one of the most disturbing books I have ever read from King and although I have stopped reading him years ago , he still is one of my fav horror authors with his works up to about the late 80’s .
    Neither movie was able to find that tone of the book . One I haven’t reread for years. For some reason that one really messes me up and that is what the movie could have done but didn’t .

    • I have never read Pet Sematary but I’ve heard other people say it’s one of their very favorite King novels. A cousin of mine read it multiple times. To be honest I can imagine the book being better than the movies. Great point about this one missing out on an opportunity to dig deeper into its subject matter.

  2. This is the reason I love your reviews. The memories that these pictures bring back can be incredible or heartbreaking. I remember when my dog FiFi got out on the highway and a 1958 Plymouth Fury come through and squished her innards out. We had a burral for her and she is still there in the semitary as far as I know. That car that runt her over I think was possessed.

  3. I think I was the only person creeped out by the first one. So, no need to see the newer version and get creeped out again.

  4. The name Stephen King was enough to draw me to this movie.And when I came to know that this was one of its best sellers and wallpaper of people wearing masks of of animals walking around I gave it a go. But was disappointed with the the outcome. It feels like not enough time has been given to make us feel connected to the movie. It seems a bit rushed. This is one more example that novels are always better then the movies.

    • It does feel rushed, doesn’t it? It’s also a bit messy. The whole part about the mentally traumatized wife never resonates much at all. It just seems like there is so much more they could’ve done with this movie.

  5. Oh this film was TRASH. It was just so mean spirited and hollow, it didn’t really had any heart or warmth in the characters which usually makes King’s novels so much fun to read/adaptations fun to watch. And the whole thing with reviving them in the first place was just so stupid

    • I think that’s a great point. It really is hollow, and you’re right, it’s hard to find any warmth whatsoever. There are a few parts I found effective, but as a whole it’s one big mess. Glad I skipped it in the theater.

  6. Oh man I already had forgotten this movie came out. I kind of want to re-watch the original more than I actually want to see this.

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